Thursday, January 31, 2008

If you could have dinner with four of your ancestors who would they be and why?

This is the topic for the 41st Carnival of Genealogy. I think it is a great topic, so here are my answers!

If you could have dinner with four of your ancestors who would they be and why?

I actually have to name five.

My parents - Anna & John Alzo. I miss their physical presence in my life every day and would give anything to have dinner with them again.

My paternal grandfather, John Alzo, Sr. - He died before I was born , from a heart attack at age 67, on the same day he returned home from being a pall bearer at the funeral of one of his closest friends. From all I learned about him I missed out on knowing a kind man with a great sense of humor. I actually wrote about this scenario - how if I could have dinner with one person I would choose my paternal grandfather, and what it would be like to have a meal with him - as an introduction to a forthcoming article.

My grandmothers: Verona Straka Figlar and Elizabeth Fenscak Alzo. Two strong Slovak women!

Would you have dinner in the present day or in one of their eras?
Both. For my parents it would be in the present day. For the others, during their time period.

Would you dine out or opt for a home cooked meal?
Home cooked! What a great feast with my Slovak grandmothers and mother cooking all of our traditional favorites: pirohi, haluski, bobalky, paska bread, lady locks, kolace and more!

What would you discuss at the dinner table?
I'd ask my parents if they are at peace as I truly believe them to be. I'd ask my grandparents loads of questions about life in Slovakia, their families, their immigration to America.

What would you most like to share with them about your life?
All of my successes--my books and articles--which I attribute to them. If my grandparents did not have the courage to get on the boats to take them to America, I would not have all the opportunities I have today. Their lives have inspired me to tell their stories. I owe what I have today to their hard work and sacrifices.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Keeping an Eye on This Piece of News

I read this on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Web site today.

Pa. Senate passes new open records law
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state Senate today unanimously passed sweeping changes to the state's open records law, long considered one of the weakest in the country.

The 50-0 vote sends the bill back to the House for concurrence, which is virtually assured. The bill then goes to Gov. Ed Rendell, who has supported the measure.

The primary change is that the new law would presume that most state records are public unless an agency can make a case that they should be private. The current law is just the opposite, requiring anyone requesting the record to prove why it should be public information.
Deborah Musselman, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, praised the new law as a vast improvement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

There's Still Time to Register for a Genealogy Class

There's still time to sign up for February classes being offered on GenClass. If you've been wanting to brush up on Family Tree Maker, learn more about your English, Scottish, Jewish, or East European roots, find Lost Family & Friends, explore the Family History Library catalog, explore Northeastern U.S. genealogy, or bust through those brick walls, the instructors at GenClass can help! Each class is just $29.95 for eight lessons and class chats. Click here to register now!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

GenealogyBank Special

If you haven't checked out GenealogyBank yet, but have wanted to, now is a great time to do so. GenealogyBank is currently running a apecial 30 day introductory offer. You pay just $9.95 for full access to GenealogyBank for 30 days.

To find out more about GenealogyBank's offerings, read Tom Kemp's GenealogyBank blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lithuania Considering Name Change

Just caught this bit of news off Reuters. As someone doing East/Central Europe genealogy, this certainly caught my attention. If you are researching your Lithuanian roots you might find this to be of interest too.

From Reuters (updated 2:20 p.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 25, 2008)

Marketing Lithuania: How about name change?

Officials say they may seek something easier to pronounce in English

VILNIUS - Lithuania is thinking about changing its name in English to something easier to pronounce in plans to boost its image, officials said on Friday....

To continue reading this article, click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

February at GenClass

Here are the offerings for February on There is a new class I will be teaching on "Brick Wall Research" as well as other regular favorites. Each class is just $29.95. Click here to view the complete schedule and/or to register.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Virtual Surname Wall Ready for Searching

I received a notification the other day that the Southern California Genealogical Society's Virtual Surname Wall database has now gone live--ready for searching. I tried it out by searching for the surnames I submitted awhile back.

"The Virtual Surname Wall provides a worry-free way to post information about your ancestors online and find others who are researching your families." There is no charge and you do not have to be a member of SCGS to submit names. No identifying information will be displayed; If SCGS receives an inquiry regarding a possible family connection, they'll forward the requestor’s contact information to you. But you can elect to authorize SCGS to release either your email address or complete contact information.

To find out more about the Virtual Surname Wall or to add your surnames, click here to get to the SCGS web site.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Storycorps Segment on Today Show

If you didn't happen to catch NBC's Today Show yesterday (Jan. 16th), you can still catch a clip of StoryCorps' founder, Dave Isay, talking about "Listening Is an Act of Love." I've already bought my copy of the book and I really enjoy all of the wonderful stories.

Click here to view the clip.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

World Vital Records Changing Its Name

Today I received the latest issue of the World Vital Records Newsletter. Included is an announcement about their name change to "" Here is the press release.


World Vital Records, Inc. Changes Name To, Inc.

New name better reflects's mission of connecting families

PROVO, UT, January 14, 2008 – A new year brings a new name to the world's fastest growing genealogical and family history corporation, World Vital Records, Inc. World Vital Records, Inc. has changed its name to, Inc., a name which better reflects the company's mission of connecting families to one another through innovative online tools.

"We marvel at the opportunity that the Internet provides to build web sites and social networking applications that can literally reach millions of users. will be our umbrella brand for a whole portfolio of web sites, widgets, and applications that all help families get connected to each other and to the past," said Paul Allen, CEO, will continue to operate the web site, with its 5,000 databases, nearly 1 billion records, and nearly 24,000 paying subscribers.

"We will continue to add new US and international records to the site every business day," said Allen. "Our strong emphasis on aggregating vital records and other family history materials from around the world will continue, as will our use of the World Vital Records brand on our genealogical products. However, the company's official name will now be, Inc."

The company said it will also continue to grow its social network that has attracted more than 47,000 customers and has doubled its site traffic already this year. It will also continue to operate the We're Related Facebook application, the #1 social application for families out of nearly 14,000 applications. We're Related has more than 2 million users and is growing at a rate of 6,000 users a day. More Facebook applications are in the works.

"The name is more reflective of the broad mission of our company, which is to provide innovative tools to help families connect," said David Lifferth, President, " will continue to provide hundreds of millions of vital records that family historians love, but as a company we are also creating tools and content for family members of all ages and interests."

"Our enthusiastic team of genealogists and IT professionals is excited to keep up the tradition we have had of delivering extremely high quality resources and tools to our users at a very low cost," said Lifferth.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January/February Ancestry Magazine

Today, I received the January/February issue of Ancestry Magazine in the mail. I was honored to be included as one of the 12 "genealogy champs" for this special research issue, writing an article in response to reader-submitted research problems. I give advice on researching Slovak ancestors. I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to the other experts who contributed--great job everyone!

I also received the digital version by e-mail, which I really like. One thing though, I never really pictured myself as the "superhero" type, so I'm trying to get used to being called one for this feature.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Course on Brick Wall Research

I am looking forward to a new class I will be teaching for GenClass starting in February called "Brick Wall Research."

If you’ve hit a brick wall in your family history research, you’re not alone. Whether it’s incomplete or “missing” information, an undetermined maiden name, unknown ancestral village, or locating foreign records, the dreaded dead end is the genealogist’s worst nightmare. In this class you will learn research techniques to turn your roadblocks into breakthroughs.

To read the full course description, click here. I hope you'll join me for this fun new class. Maybe we can help each other out.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Think Genealogy's Top 10 Lists

I was surprised (but pleased) to see my name among Think Genealogy's "Top 10 Genealogy and Technology Most Published Authors of 2007." Congrats to all of my fellow writers on the list. May we all continue to learn from one another!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Blog: Gen365

Now that I am finally coming out of the "post-holiday fog," I am slowly working on some of my New Year's resolutions. One is to try and do a bit of genealogy every day. With working full time, plus freelance writing, speaking engagements, teaching, and other obligations, it seems that my own family history research always seems to get put on the back burner.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Family Tree Magazine (February 2006) "365 Ways to Discover Your Roots." I decided that this year I would "practice what I preach," and try to do a specific genealogy task each day and keep track of my progress through a new blog I've named "Gen365" (short for 365 days of Genealogy). My hope is that through this yearlong genealogical journey I will be able to stay on course and find ways to incorporate a little family history into each day. So far I have five days of tasks and five postings.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Out of This Furnace Tribute Part of Pittsburgh's 250th Celebration

This year, Pittsburgh turns 250! Many celebrations and tributes are in the works. One that I am especially looking forward to is Unseam'd Shakespeare's staging of Thomas Bell's classic novel, Out of This Furnace, which tells a multi-generational story of immigration, labor and the rise of unions in the Braddock mills, 1881-1940s. The dramatic adaptation, developed by the Iron Clad Agreement in 1978-79, will be directed by Marci Woodruff in June at the Open Stage space in Pittsburgh's Strip District. Bell's 1942 novel inspired me to write my book, Three Slovak Women. I can't wait to get tickets to this one!

Click here to read more about plans for the tribute.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Setting Genealogical Research Goals

As the New Year begins, it is customary to make resolutions. I don't much care for that term, but I do like to set goals at the start of each year. This includes genealogical research goals. Developing a genealogy research plan is the essential first step to making ancestral breakthroughs. To stay on track, I like to use this five-point strategy.

1. Set an objective. Write down what you want to learn--your ancestor's marriage or immigration date? His spouse's name? Where your ancestor was living in 1930? Be as specific as possible.

2. Note the facts. Jot down what you already know from original documents, records, or family stories. Include names and spelling variations, family relationships, and dates of birth, death and marriage.

3. Develop a hypothesis. Make a few guesses based on what you already know. Estimate when your ancestors married, speculate a date range for immigration, consider probable hometowns, etc.

4. Seek out sources. List all the records which will likely prove (or disprove) your hypothesis. Learn if they're available, where to find them and in what format. Try not to miss any options.

5. Take action. Decide the order in which you'll seek the records and how to get to them.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, New Genealogy Classes

Happy New Year!

Have you made your genealogical resolutions yet? Whether you want to bust a brick wall, finally track down that elusive ancestor, start writing your family history, or finally get organized, there's no better time to put away all your past mistakes or failed attempts and make a fresh start. So pull out your calendar, create a new genealogical to-do list and set your research goals. And why not sign up for a class to help keep you motivated? Check out the great offerings at GenClass for 2008, including new classes: Brick Wall Research, Finding Your Female Ancestors, and Genealogy for Kids. There's still a few days left to sign up for January's classes (enrollment is open until Jan. 6th):

Adoption Investigative Class
Genealogy for Kids
Jump Start your Genealogy!
Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class
Native American Genealogy
Salt Lake City: Part 1 - the Largest Genealogical Library in the World!
Write Your Family History Step-by-Step

Click here to register now.

Here's hoping that 2008 brings you many genealogical successes!